Derek Trucks on Blues Wax
" Live, Free, and on CD"
It's been two years since Derek Trucks' last disc. His newest, the 2009 Already Free,is quite different from Songlines. The new CD is more of a Blues-roots-oriented outing. Songlines, offered Derek's more explorative side, but make no doubt about it, Already Free is a much more focused and cohesive recording. Already Free is about togetherness with world-class guest musicians and his own current band. It's also about family and music. For the first time as his own producer, Trucks has captured this vibe glowingly, the results enhanced by being recorded in his home studio. The sound quality and audio mix are of high quality, too. That said, there are no really long tracks and minimal Trucks explorations, the kind that have been powerful signatures of his live performances with the Allman Brothers, Clapton, Santana, Phil Lesh, or with his own The Derek Trucks Band.
Already Free highlights include the opening cover of Bob Dylan's "Down in the Flood," as well as a soulful interpretation of Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn's "Sweet Inspiration." Doyle Bramhall III, singer Mike Mattison, and Trucks' "Get What You Deserve" (sans a bass player) is a steamroller that will bowl you over with its power. Mattison and Trucks' "Down Don't Bother Me," is a soulful Blues that slowly boils and ends with a mighty solo by Trucks. Kofi Burbridge, Mattison, and Trucks' "Days Is Almost Gone" is gorgeous and also all about soul. Exemplifying the family affair here, Trucks' wife Susan Tedeschi is featured vocally in a trio setting on the gentle Trucks/Warren Haynes composition "Back Where I Started." "I Know" is an old R&B shouter associated with Big Maybelle where Kofi Burbridge's B3 is out front, horns are added, and sets the perfect backdrop to Derek's soaring guitar. Mattison's gut-wrenching vocals also add much to this hip cover.
The Already Live EP is a complement to Already Free and makes you realize how far Trucks has traveled. This excellent disc starts off with a song from Already Free titled "I Know," where the band kicks into high gear. Dylan's "Down In The Flood" also rages on, as they do on "I Know." The next track, "Get What You Deserve," takes the studio version to another level. The EP concludes with the seventeen-plus-minute version of "My Favorite Things" from the Broadway and film hit The Sound of Music, but this version is more akin to the immortal John Coltrane's version, and it's here that we hear another side of Derek's affection of exploratory Jazz sounds as he channels 'Trane with intense power, hair-raising improvisations, and - bottom line - shows why the young Trucks is one of the best all-around guitarists on the scene today and will likely be for many years to follow.
Trucks has been fortunate to play with today's best musicians as he's toured - and sometimes recorded with - the Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, Phil Lesh & Friends, Carlos Santana, and recently sat in with Coltrane alumnus McCoy Tyner. What's fascinating is that this young and very talented guitarist can fit in and enhance the work of any of these performers, both in the studio and on the road. I have to say, while seeing Trucks perform as a sideman is alluring and that it is fun watching him adapt, seeing his own band in concert is where he works best for me. There are seemingly fewer boundaries then and we are more apt to see Derek create and explore. Hence, my ratings of 7 for his studio recording, 8 for the Live EP, and 9 for going to see him and his band-mates perform
So what's next for Mr. Trucks? I really don't know, but what I do know is that no matter where he decides to take his music, I am most certain that it will be more steps ahead with his creative prowess, as he has the talents to go anywhere he musically chooses to go. Stay tuned for more!
Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com